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NAMM 2003

JEM/JS/PG   MM/ND/K   JSM/PM/GB    RG   S   SA/SZ/SC/SCA/GSA

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TREMS

Edge Pro - EP

The 21st Century redesign of our old favorite. Not only more contoured for a smoother feel to the hand, the new design also heralds in a more contemporary look. The new aesthetics are quite pleasing and is being touted as Ibanez' lowest profile bridge ever. This design features the ability to load a string through the underside with the ball still attached, or string normally as there is still the string lock in the saddle. The string lock block that locks the string is now part of the saddle so you won't ever have to worry about turning your guitar over while doing a string change and loosing one of the separate strings lock blocks that were in the old design. Also note the steel saddle insert to promote longer string life, more precise intonation, and increased sustain. Another notable improvement is not in the design but in the intonation pattern that is finally [apparently] accurate!! Your guitars should arrive from the factory in extremely good intonation. Something I've been lobbying for nearly a year, while JD has been trying to get Gotoh to change the intonation jig much longer. Kudos for finally getting it done! Unfortunately the biggest drawback of the whole show was the move to non-locking studs. Notice they've changed the allen key size to what appears 2.5mm on the stud adjustment. This was done to decrease the number of broken studs at the allen key hole by those trying to "grind" their action lower and to eliminate rejects in the manufacturing process. The set screw was done away with because of the more complex process of drilling the hole and tapping it causing more rejects, combined with the screw itself was costing too much overall. A profit based decision that is disappointing, especially after they redesigned the 2LE2B studs to best ever spec. Not locking the stud will cause a very slight amount of instability in the tuning, but really inconsequential unless you're aiming at perfection. They may tighten up quite well with Teflon tape, or they may well be tight enough as they are. If they kept the same V profile of the last version of the grooved 2LE2B I'm sure they'll make a great stud. *UPDATE* - I've reviewed the new trems and posted the results at the bottom of the page here. I originally toned down my review of the studs posted above after returning from the show to give Ibanez the benefit of doubt, but, the results are in, the tone down was not warranted. The real worry is the amount of loose inserts they will cause 5-10 years down the line because of the play now allowed in the threads. The play between the stud and anchor will cause the anchor to work it's way loose in it's hole, over time causing the anchor to oblong the hole. Basswood is the one to worry about, I repair allot of oblonged anchor holes, and then again most old basswood guitars will be just fine. I'm sure allot of it has to do with use/abuse/climate/age/gauge/ and any other factor that could add to the stress on the wood around the anchor. AFAIK the setscrew was unique to Ibanez and they spent all that extra money on the more complex part for 15 years. They must have believed it was important enough to pay for it for that long. Evidently they no longer think so. So it's not a "the end of the world" type issue, it's more of a disappointment that the "system" is being downgraded to any extent.

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The red plastic pieces are just seats for the ball end on stringing, to prevent you from pushing the string too far in.

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Notice the new slots cut into the trem cover now to make claw adjustments without removing the cover. I had asked about this 3 years ago and was told Yamaha had a patent on it. Nice to see everything has been worked out and are now being installed on the EP [and probably the EP II system but not confirmed]. I also hope the slots are long enough so as not to create too steep an angle with the screwdriver [they look like they should be longer!]

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Edge Pro 7 - EP7

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Double Edge Pro - EPX

The piezo version of the Pro Edge, you can see the piezo elements now installed where the steel inserts would be on the standard PE.

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Edge Pro II - EPII

The only notable differences at first glance are the lack of steel inserts in the saddles and no arm holder for the bar. The bar is a push in and the catalog states the arm is height and tension adjustable. This version also features the ball end loading design of the EP. The catalog states then knife edges are replaceable. The main difference is this bridge is made in Korea of different metallurgy and hardness factors than the Gotoh made EP. The design is slightly different and is about 2mm shorter than an EP so that the EP is not hot swappable. Featured on the JS100, RGT42, and RG300 series guitars.

P1010079.JPG (62766 bytes)

 

Zero Resistence - ZR

A very innovative new design that incorporates some similarity to the Backstop with redesigned improvements. You can break a string on this bridge and the guitar will remain in tune due to the Zero Stop arm [That's what a Rep told me anyway] I don't see how the system would keep it in tune after breaking a string, but I do see how it would keep the bridge "in tune" while bending strings. The tolerances on the ballbearing pivots are said to be so tight they had to get Tama to make these parts. [A Rep told me that too, but that I believe ;)] The bar down action on this S1620 had a glitch in it, looked like the Zero Stop bar was bucking against some bunched up felt in the cavity. All the others I tried had a very *very* smooth action to them on pull-up or down, and plenty of flutter when asked for. It does have a slightly stiffer feel on whammy down as you are now pulling against another two springs that keep the Zero Stop bar against it's stop, but this is what will also keep the guitar in tune upon string bending. A very interesting and unique design!

Review at the bottom of the page here.

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You can see the Zero Stop bar here resting against it's stop. Without flash.

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With flash.

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Review

Edge Pro

The new bridge offers alot of refinements. The new saddle design is ingenius the way the string lock block and screw are integrated into the saddle and sprung so the block stays with the screw when backed out. The boss that takes all the stress is thinner than on a Lo Pro so overtightening will inevitably break a saddle, so avoid overtightening! They've also tried to correct the angle of the lock screw by angling it up so that when locking in the strings your wrench isn't running interference with the fine tuners, but they came up a little short on the E and A strings, they have included an Allen wrench with an "all angle drive"? end though and it does work..

The base plate is also uniform thickness now so it sits fully parallel to the body instead of angling up out of it, very lo profile. Considering they tout the "ball end on" I find it's a joke and should be avoided. If you do snip the balls off be careful pulling and reinstalling this bridge with strings on as excess string length under the bridge tends to splay in any direction and will [I did] scratch the top when you drop it in.

The new intonation pattern is much closer than the Lo Pro factory set ever was, unfortunately on the first 2 I tested it was also set way too far back and the whole guitar was intonated very flat. From what I've been told Japan is NOT going to design or produce an intonation tool for the EP. Now that nobody is making even the Lo Pro tools anymore that leaves intonating these a huge pain in the ass.

One flaw I noticed on one EP was the steel saddle inserts were not pressed in to the same depth leaving a terrible radius on the bridge. These are *press* fit and no attempt to sink them fully even budged them. Some of you have had a hard time grasping this so these 2 shots illustrate a horribly "set" insert, you can imagine how this will affect the height of that saddle, and therefore the radius of the bridge. This will be found on early run Edge Pro's and seem to have been sorted out by the mid year runs but very few are absolutely perfect and I check and radius all bridges as part of the setup. This is an extreme example and not the norm.

Of course these saddles need to be shuffled around and shimmed to get the bridge radius back to spec. Thank God they've mostly licked this bug, but there are plenty of guitars around the world that have super whacked out bridge radius.

Knife edges were still a little wide on the first ones I've seen but soon after I started to notice that Gotoh is now grinding both sides of the knife to thin it out before it's press fit into the baseplate. Considering the heat I took over filling thick knife edges I'm feeling quite vindicated! ;) These are crudely ground but are performing extremely well [and I clean them up anyway], if the deficiency you'll read about next is addressed.



Unfortunately their decision to change the locking 2LE2B studs to solid non locking studs is creating problems with tuning stability on a good percentage of the new EP [and EPII] axes. The first I tested was a 1570L [and I can't tell you how much I absolutely HATE working on Lefties!] and in a series of 5 pullup tests [always doing a dive between tests to reset neutral] three times the low E returned a very sharp E, and twice it returned in F! [a very flat F but were talking more than a 1/4 step out, and this ran across the whole bridge to every string] This was after a full maintenance routine and setup to perfection. After working through every possibility to solve the bug as the very last resort I dropped in a set of 2LE2B's. [I had tried to tighten the EP studs using teflon tape, which worked for about 10 seconds till the pressure disintegrated the tape. Thinning the knives showed 0 improvement]

In their infinite wisdom of complete cost cutting the stud anchors [inserts] for the EP studs [2EP2B I guess] no longer have the solid base [since they aren't needed with non locking studs]. When you turn down the set screw you're screwing into wood. So you know this was the last resort as I pulled the EP anchors and pressed in a set of LE anchors, the 2LE2B studs, and resetup the guitar. Problem 95% relieved with the low E returning medium sharp but the rest of the bridge either extremely close or a hair flat, drop back down to a dive and return in perfect tune of course.

UPDATE - I came up with a better, easier, quicker, cheaper, and totally reversible fix for the bottomless insert. A pair of 4mm socket head screws to "plug" the hole and a pair of 2LE2B studs and the 03's should perform like an 02'!!! [I do my best thinking sitting on the crapper, I shit you not!] ;o}

This is also the ultra cheap fix because it allows you to use the Edge Pro studs. You can set the depth of the set screw down in the insert to act as a locking set screw and drive the non locking studs into them for the lock, the height of the set screw actually adjusting the action. And since you really only set the action once and make tweaks on what's actually changing, [neck bow, trem angle] you'd never have to touch it unless you wanted to change the action. A little tougher to setup the first time, but for under a couple bucks you get the same thing as a 2LE2B, a locked stud! ;) [I absolutely do not recommend this, the limitation of not being able to make minute adjustments in action as your strings get played to death or to compensate for minute trem angle changes due to climate and environment just make this way too limiting. The correct fix is cheap enough, especially on an expensive guitar!]

The specific part is -  8M, 1.25 pitch, socket head set screw, 4mm length would be optimal for flexibility but 6mm is the shortest available and will give 2mm action at the last fret with .5mm neck relief. A neck shim will be needed to get sick low 1mm action some of you like, or, the 6mm set screws can be easily ground down to 4mm. I measured the exposed length of a stud in a perfectly setup 03' and measured it against a stud run all the way into an 03' insert with an 8mm length test screw and the stud is 2mm higher. In essence a 6mm set screw would work for my setups but a 4mm will allow extra adjustability, and plenty of extra travel for those who like ultra sick low action.

Either I haven't explained this well or some just don't get it so let's illustrate with some pics!

On the left is the old 2LE2B locking studs and 2LE2A inserts that have a solid base. On the right is the new non locking EP studs and the open base inserts.

MVC-012F.JPG (71359 bytes)

On the left is the insert with a set screw and on the right is the set assembled with either a locking or non locking stud.

MVC-013F.JPG (71513 bytes)

This shows how either would lock together but I left a little room between them for the shot. The locking stud on the left you would use the set screw in the stud to lock against the 6mm set screw that adds a base to the EP insert. The non locking stud on the right will lock itself against the 6mm set screw, the set screw would have to be adjusted for the correct action height and then the stud tightened against it for the lock.

MVC-014F.JPG (75976 bytes)

On the EP equipped 03's you have 3 options,

Set screws free with guitar if you want to do the locking. [everything else done of course]

Setup with the set screws and 03' studs locked - $15 - No longer being offered, the extra $20 for the locking studs is a pittance compared to the flexibility it offers.

Setup with set screws and studs swapped to 2LE2B's - $35

UPDATE  - I just finished my first 2003 JEM7VWH and I have to say the trem return on this one is as good as it gets. Why this one is so stable with the non locking studs and the other 2 aren't will take a bit more figuring, and this one has to ship so I can't spend a couple days figuring it out ;) This VWH does have the problem of not-set saddle inserts that leave the bridge radius whacked. Creative swap-around of 4 saddles brought the radius in "tolerably", but until they make an intonation tool for these EP bridges it's a PAIN IN THE ASS! Much less leaving the radius just short of optimal, which could be corrected with shims, IF there was a tool, because without one it's not getting done. The intonation was still flat also, but still way closer than an 02'.

Back to the review ;)

The other guitar I setup to test is a PG30 [now with the new EP trem]. It returned medium/high sharp across the bridge in pullup testing. I've heard of 6 other guitars with the problem and only have reports of 2 that have stable tuning return after pullup [although neither was an "on tuner" test], fortunately one is a Jem. The saddle inserts in the PG were all set to uniform depth.

Bottom line, the factory's decision to drop the locking studs is going to bite them in the haunches, probably more than the stud / knife edge problems of previous years did.

Edge Pro, ingenious design, well executed, but intonated improperly with the possibility of bridge radius inconsistencies. 2EP2B? studs and anchors show a preliminary result of a much higher probability of tuning instability on return from pullups. Feels just like a Lo Pro, with an even lower profile.

Disclaimer, this is the result of testing the first 2 EP equipped guitars I've received, and further rumblings from neverland. This is not a good percentage to start but it's such a small test pool the results could vary greatly over a production run. Time and more testing will tell. It should also be noted that tuning stability on dive return was perfect.

After working on these for a full year I can positively say - stringing with the ball end on is for idiots. Not only do you have to give 5 full turns out [and back in] on the lock to open it enough to accept the ball, but the ball usually gets hung up in those stupid red plastic "seats" on the underside. I've screwed with one for over a minute just to get one damn string out. Avoid, cut the balls off and string normal.

ZR

Now the ZR trem is ingenious, and also shows a perfect return from any whammy abuse you can throw at it. With the zero stop bar adjusted properly it holds tune very well when bending double stops, but is a flutter killer and has the feel of 4 springs when doing dives. With the zero stop bar removed [one option for setup] it's got just an awesome spongy feel and you can jam it hard for some wild flutter, or light for a little dancing. Intonation was dead on perfect out of the box. The ball bearing fulcrom is just super smooth but does have a quite different feel as the arm holder is so much closer to the fulcrom. Still, I highly recomend this bridge for flawless function and I had a blast for an hour straight Tuesday. When I was done the full bridge was still in perfect tune, just as it should be.

Didn't mean to write a book, guess I can copy and paste this into my site ;)

 

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